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The Art of Ivan Pochekin

I first got to know about him through the cat eyes of his younger brother Mikhail. There is no better letter of introduction than that one of a brother who admires you and respects you, someone who really cares. Since that snowy Sunday morning when I met Mikhail, I knew that the art of Ivan Pochekin had to be something extraordinary. First there were the comments of affection, then the recordings that Mikhail gave me so that I could listen to his brother play the viola and the violin. A year went by until I finally could meet him in person. Before that I had already met the mother and the father of these two musical brothers: Elena and Yuri. They are all a family where art and music flood everything. I saw Ivan for the first time when Mikhail presented his recording of the six Bach’s Partitas & Sonatas for violin solo at Ateneo in Madrid. Ivan and I did not exchange many words back then, but Mikhail had already instilled into me that sincere admiration you feel when you face the artisan, the artist, the true musician who not only plays an instrument, but who also understands music and conveys its in-depth message to anyone who can listen to it. Then some more months went by, maybe half a year, until I saw him again in Madrid. It was Christmas time. Ivan, Mikhail and I had embarked for nine months on a charity adventure to raise funds for the benefit of ACTAYS and the children with neurological diseases at Hospital del Niño Jesús in Madrid. Both brothers offered a concert which will remain in the minds and hearts of all those people who went to the Sony Auditorium in Madrid on that Saturday, 21 December 2019.

Then I had the chance to get to know Ivan a little better. And I realised that in the artist you can also find an easy going and friendly man. Just like I do —and this is something we both “dangerously” love— Ivan loves good food and a good conversation over a good glass of wine. Ivan is human! Many times we are dazzled by an artist of Ivan Pochekin’s virtuoso calibre. You can see him slide his left hand up and down either on a violin or on a viola neck with an astonishing finger precision while his right hand conjures the bow drawing the strings with bewitching movements that create sounds, from the most horrible and piercing to the most beautiful and extraordinary, without apparent effort. Ivan Pochekin combines the colours and hues of his sound palette with exceptional mastery and creates those musical canvases in melodious oil paint which move and touch the deepest of the listener’s soul. Ivan transforms the stage into an artisan’s workshop where the entrails of sound are forged and the work of art emerges.

Great Music & Performers - Ivan Pochekin - Shostakovich

Now, the last thing of Ivan that I put my hands and ears on is the recording of the two violin concertos by Dmitry Shostakovich. The music of Shostakovich is not nice. It’s pungent, hopeless, breathtaking and only sometimes beautiful. Surely, there will come musicologists and specialists who will write about this album and about the art of Ivan Pochekin. They will give their opinions and they will make it big or ignore it according to their musical tastes and knowledge. As far as I am concerned, the sincerest homage I can pay to the artist is to say that the words of admiration, respect and affection that one day his younger brother Mikhail instilled into me are given sense anew today, because Ivan Pochekin’s recording of the two Shostakovich’s violin concertos will be, for years to come, the recording of reference.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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(Español) Lola

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(Español) Grandes libros y escritores que recomiendo II – Ramón Gómez de la Serna

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(Español) El meigo de Allariz

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When performing meets creating: CullerArts International Violin Competition

CullerArts

Left to right: Cristóbal Soler, Jordi Mayor, Pilar Jurado & Juan Carlos Alandete

On Monday 10th February the 2nd International Violin Competition “CullerArts” was presented at Longoria Palace in Madrid, the headquarters of SGAE (Spanish General Society of Authors and Publishers). Organised by the Cullera Town Hall and with maestro Cristóbal Soler as music director, this competition opens up a new pathway for composers by incorporating a composition award. The presentation started with a few words by Pilar Jurado, president of SGAE. She spoke about the partnership agreement between SGAE and the Cullera Town Hall to create this new composition award. “There is no better way to celebrate the 120th anniversary of SGAE than by creating an award which can help to generate new repertoire for violinists around the world. It’s one of the many actions we will carry out in 2020 to boost the repertoire and encourage our creators so that they can keep making history”, she said. Then Jordi Mayor, Cullera’s Mayor and one of the main supporters of this project, highlighted the collaboration with SGAE in the creation of the composition award, which will give a greater international reputation to the ‘CullerArts’ violin competition: “It’s an opportunity not only for performers, but also for composers who can do their bit for the repertoire of violin solo”.CullerArts1

Cristóbal Soler spoke about the awareness of some Spanish regional administrations, specially those in the region of Valencia, to carry out sustainable musical projects in case of eventual economic crisis: “When you are creating a project such as this violin competition, it’s fundamental that the administrations can guarantee their sustainability and continuity”.

This second edittion will consist of an eliminatory round where participants will play for 10 minutes each. They will have to perform one Paganini Capriccio of their choice and a slow movement of a Sonata or Partita by J. S. Bach. There will only be eight participants at the semifinal and they will have to play virtuosic works with piano accompaniment (this round will be opened to the general public). The three finalists will perform their works accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of Valencia.

Violinists from around the world aged 17 and 27 can participante in this competition. The registration period will be between February 17th and May 30th 2020. Applications and required documents (see www.cullera.es) will be sent to casacultura@cullera.es.

The event concluded with the signing of the partnership agreement between the Cullera Town Hall and SGAE. The composition prize is endowed with 2.000 €. The award winning work, —for violin solo and 7 to 8 minutes long— will be announced at the final of the 2nd International Violin Competition and it will be performed as a compulsory piece for the next edition of this competition in 2021.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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(Español) La foto

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(Español) Lo que nunca llegué a escribir

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(Español) La consagración

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(Español) Llamémosle Emilio

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Mancha Real, opening new musical ways

It is the first one of its kind in Spain. And it is also the first time that the most classical ensemble in classical music has its own international competition in Spain: the string quartet, the four instrumental voices par excellence. It has been already over four hundred years that Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes started writing his world famous novel Don Quixote having no desire to call to mind the name of a village of La Mancha. Today, however, 415 years after the publication of Cervantes first part of Don Quixote, I beg the reader to call to mind the name of this other place: Mancha Real. Ladies and gentlemen, ¡the 1st International String Quartet Competition “Villa de Mancha Real” has been born! Please, do not get mixed up! Mancha Real is not a Castilian village like Don Quixote’s, but an Andalusian one near the city of Jaén. The people from Mancha Real are known as mancharrealeños yes, I know, hard to pronounce in English, give a try if you can! Our book would start like this: “In a village of Andalusia, the name of which I’ll always have desire to call to mind, there lives a mayoress determined to show the world that in the village of Mancha Real there are loads of talent, hospitality and future. A land of musicians and olive groves, arisen from a ‘spot’ (that is the meaning of ‘mancha’ in English) of pine trees and ‘royal’ (that is what ‘real’ means in Spanish) because one day a king passed by and found solace and sustenance in the village, the former Manchuela de Jaén (Little Spot of Jaén) became the Royal Spot (Mancha Real) of today. And the most royal string quartets, the best of sounds and most beautiful melodies will arise from this land on the foothills of Sierra Mágina.”

Mancha Real mayoress María del Mar Dávila and maestro Cristóbal Soler.

Mancha Real mayoress María del Mar Dávila and maestro Cristóbal Soler. Madrid, January 2020.

On Monday 20th January 2020, Maria del Mar Dávila, the mayoress of Mancha Real, travelled to Madrid to officially present the 1st International String Quartet Competition “Villa de Mancha Real”. Next to her was the orchestra conductor and maestro Cristóbal Soler, founder of this competition, who had also travelled from Valencia to Madrid for the presentation. Will this be a “quixotic” undertaking of the 21st century? The place chosen for the presentation was the Madrid Royal Conservatoire of Music. It was five in the afternoon, exactly five o’clock in the afternoon. Very few people, hardly anyone. Maestro Soler sadly expresses his disappointment to the deputy director of the conservatoire —maybe the one to blame for not spreading the news among professors and students. Will it be a sign of how arduous and quixotic this wonderful undertaking is? Never mind! The mayoress and the maestro do not flinch and they go on with the presentation of this new international competition in Spain. Both of them are aware that a ‘baby’ needs to be pampered since it is in the parent’s belly.

IMG_20200120_175511The mayoress of Mancha Real speaks about the hospitality of the mancharrealeños —Come on! Pronounce it and get it right if you dare!—, she talks about the history and wonders of this Andalusian village, near Jaén. Just a little over 11.000 inhabitants, Mancha Real has a great musical tradition. Maria del Mar Dávila talks with pride and joy about their typical “andrajos”, a tradicional stew made with flour, about their sweet “papajotes” for Easter Week, about their “risor”, a coffee brandy from the region, about their precious and exquisite olive oil and their prosperous wood and furniture industry —by the way, Mancha Real has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Spain. The mayoress can’t help mentioning the Iglesia de San Juan Evangelista (St. John the Evangelist Church), the symbol of this village. She also reveals a future plan to make the Carmelite Convent founded by St. Juan de la Cruz —the author of the Spiritual Canticle: silent music, sounding solitude— into a theatre. Will it be the venue for future editions of the International String Quartet Competition “Villa de Mancha Real”?

IMG_20200120_170406On the other hand, maestro Cristóbal Soler says that he loves being close to young musicians, because he learns a lot from them. Actually, he is the conductor who collaborates the most with the Spanish National Youth Orchestra (JONDE). “The level of musicians as individuals in Spain is excellent. However, there are very few chamber music competitions. I think the secret for a good musical education is to master an instrument and, at the same time, have the ability to listen. You are a good musician when you are able to master your instrument while listening to others. Chamber music is the solution. And the string quartet is the queen of chamber music! There is no other competition like this in Spain. And it is so necessary…”, he explains.

The 1st International String Quartet Competition “Villa de Mancha Real” will be held on 3rd, 4th and 5th of July 2020. String quartets from all nationalities will be admitted as long as their members are aged 18 to 35 years old. For 2020, the first prize will be 3.000 €, the second prize 2.000 € and 1.000 € for the third one. The submission period will be from February 1st to May 31st. Since 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, there will be a mandatory piece for all competitors: Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major no. 1 op. 18. You can see the rules for the competition on the website of Mancha Real Townhall: https://www.manchareal.es

The mancharrealeños —Come on, third time’s a charm! will pamper and look after their musical baby. Let’s open up new musical ways in the land of musicians…

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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